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MikeHilton-headAssociate Professor
Senior Environmental Management Adviser

MA(Auck)
PhD(Auck)

 

 

Richardson Building, room 4C16
Office Hours: email to make an appointment
Tel +64 3 479 8778
Email michael.hilton@otago.ac.nz

Teaching

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Research interests

My research is primarily concerned with the geomorphology and management of coasts, with a focus on aeolian (wind-blown) coastal systems. I study the form and function of coastal dunes and dune ecology at all latitudes, from the cold temperate to equatorial latitudes. I have a particular interest in foredunes, since these systems lie at the interface between land and see and their management is germane to the wellbeing of coastal communities and the conservation of biodiversity.

I have over 21 years in the restoration of coastal dunes systems, which in southern New Zealand includes the management of invasive plant species. The world’s largest dune restoration dune program is based on Stewart Island and I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to have worked with the Department of Conservation and over 25 postgraduate students on a range of associated research problems.

I have secondary interests in the geomorphology of coral sand cays and the management of tropical resources. I was involved in these themes while at the National University of Singapore (1992-1995) and I have pursued research in the Maldives since February 2017. I am particularly interested in the geography of small coral sand islands and their formation and dynamics. Finally, I maintain a strong interest in environmental policy, particularly coastal policy.

Key research questions:

  1. What processes determine rates and patterns of sand deposition and erosion in foredunes. I am currently examining the impact changing wind directionality will have on foredune/dune system development?
  2. What impact do alien sand-binding species have on dune morphology, dune ecology and dune system development in temperate dune systems? And what are the consequences of releasing this sand when restoration involves de-vegetation?
  3. How will natural and modified dune systems respond to future environmental change, particularly eustatic sea-level rise and increased storm frequency/severity due to global warming?
  4. How can dune systems on developed (metropolitan) coasts be engineered to maximize ecosystem services, including hazard management, amenity value and biodiversity?

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Current research projects

Coral sand cay formation in the Maldives
Coral sand cays form on reef platforms in the atoll lagoons of the Maldives. They are important to the conservation of biodiversity, but are also used as a source of sand, fishing, sites for resort development and related tourist activities. Little is known about how they form – which appears to involve the interaction of oceanographic, geomorphic and botanical processes. This work has demonstrated that aeolian processes contribute to coral sand cay accretion and groundwater system development, which in turn supports plant colonisation. Islands are still forming despite global environmental change and work over the next few years seeks to understand the antecedent conditions for island formation vegetation and stabilisation.

Strategies for managing foredunes on metropolitan coasts
At least five highly invasive plants have been intentionally and accidentally introduced on the temperate dune systems of Australia since European colonisation. These have dispersed widely through various mechanisms and formed large, stable, foredunes. How will these foredunes respond to environmental change, including eustatic sea-level rise. What strategies can be employed to manage foredunes to enhance community resilience to climate change forcing?

Dune system restoration
Marram grass usually establishes a dense vegetation cover that tends to halt sedimentation and dune movement in transgressive dune systems and build relatively continuous and massive foredunes. The impact of removing marram grass using herbicide applied from helicopters and ground vehicles has been studied on Stewart Island (Rakiura) since 1999, when Department of Conservation operations commenced. These impacts relate to the nature of the dune flora, stability of landforms, change in habitat and, in general, understanding the natural character of dune systems in southern New Zealand. This project has, to date, supported 25 postgraduate theses and dissertations. The current focus is on the rate of foredune erosion following marram grass eradication and the implications of foredune restoration for dune system development and dune ecology.

See Mike's Further research interests page

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Postgraduate supervision

Current postgraduate supervision

  • Minh Duc Nguyen – Flow steering and sand transport through engineered foredune notches. Doctor of Philosophy, co-supervisor.
  • Dylan Cliff – Environmental impact assessment. Master of Planning, co-supervisor.
  • Simon Petrie – soil development and plant succession on sand cays in atoll lagoons in the Maldives. Master of Science in Environmental Management, primary supervisor.
  • Megan Hankey – dune system development following foredune destabilisation, Mason Bay, Stewart Island. Master of Science in Environmental Management, primary supervisor.

Recent postgraduate supervision

PhD

  • Nomura, M. Past and current drivers of species climatic niches and geographic distributions. Doctor of Philosophy, University of Otago (2019), co-supervisor.
  • Chen, B. Beach Gravel Abrasion. Doctor of Philosophy, University of Otago (2014), co-supervisor.
  • Konlechner, T. Marine dispersal of Ammophila arenaria. Doctor of Philosophy, University of Otago (2012), co-supervisor.
  • Hetherington, J. Dune vegetation restoration following Lupinus arboreus eradication. Doctor of Philosophy, University of Otago (2011), co-supervisor.
  • Pattanapol, W. Wind flow over complex topography. Doctor of Philosophy, University of Otago (2010), co-supervisor.

Master of Science / Master of Applied Science

  • Borrie, D. Aeolian sedimentation and small island development, Maldives. Master of Science (2019), primary supervisor.
  • Adam, R. Storm-forced shoreline dynamics in southern New Zealand. Master of Science (2019), primary supervisor.
  • Simons-Smith, T. Wind flow and sediment transport through three morphologically different foredune notches, St Kilda, Dunedin. Master of Science (2017), primary supervisor.
  • Moloney, J. G. Digital surface models and feature mapping from low cost UAV photography, Master of Science in Environmental Management (Distinction), University of Otago (2017), primary supervisor.
  • Buckley, E. Sedimentation and dune development following foredune restoration, Mason Bay, Stewart Island. Master of Science, University of Otago (2015), primary supervisor.
  • Lyttle, K. (MSciComm). The perception of dune restoration programmes. Master of Science and Communication, University of Otago (2014), co-supervisor.
  • MacLachlan, K.Temporal and spatial dynamics of the seed bank of Ammophila arenaria (marram grass). Master of Science, University of Otago (2014), primary supervisor.
  • Fordyce, E. Sea-level rise and groundwater levels in South Dunedin. Master of Applied Science, University of Otago (2014), co-supervisor.
  • Kelly, M. Marram-forced foredune progradation in southern New Zealand. Master of Science, University of Otago (2012), primary supervisor.
  • Lim, D. The importance of seed in the invasion of active dune systems by marram grass (Ammophila arenaia). Master of Applied Science, University of Otago (2010), primary supervisor.

Master of Planning

  • Cummins, J. The decision to armour or move low-lying coastal roads. Master of Planning, University of Otago (2015), primary supervisor.
  • Scouller, A. An Evaluation of Coastal Setback Methodologies in New Zealand. Master of Planning (Credit), University of Otago (2010), primary supervisor.

Postgraduate supervision (1995–2009)

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Publications

Hilton, M., Konlechner, T., McLachlan, K., Lim, D., & Lord, J. (2019). Long-lived seed banks of Ammophila arenaria prolong dune restoration programs. Journal of Coastal Conservation. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s11852-018-0675-0

Hilton, M. J., Borrie, D. R., Konlechner, T. M., Wakes, S. J., Lane, T. P., Kench, P. S., … Aslam, M. (2019). A first evaluation of the contribution of aeolian sand transport to lagoon island accretion in the Maldives. Aeolian Research, 39, 47-65. doi: 10.1016/j.aeolia.2019.04.006

Moloney, J. G., Hilton, M. J., Sirguey, P., & Simons-Smith, T. (2018). Coastal dune surveying using a low-cost remotely piloted aerial system (RPAS). Journal of Coastal Research, 34(5), 1244-1255. doi: 10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-17-00076.1

Bauer, B. O., Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D., Hilton, M. J., & Fraser, D. (2018). On the frequency response of a Wenglor particle-counting system for aeolian transport measurements. Aeolian Research, 32, 133-140. doi: 10.1016/j.aeolia.2018.02.008

Hilton, M., Walter, R., Greig, K., & Konlechner, T. (2018). Burial, erosion, and transformation of archaeological landscapes: Case studies from southern New Zealand (Aotearoa). Progress in Physical Geography, 42(5), 607-627. doi: 10.1177/0309133318795844

Authored Book - Research

Hilton, M. J. (2000). The Sand Dunes of Kawakaputa Bay and Haldane Bay, Southland. Department of Conservation, Wellington: Conservation Advisory Science Notes NO. 275, 12p.

Hilton, M., Macauley, U., & Henderson, R. (2000). Inventory of New Zealand's active dunelands: Science for Conservation 157. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Conservation, 29p.

Ingle, C., & Hilton, M. J. (1997). Indigenous Habitat Monitoring Under the Resource Management Act 1991. (Publication / Environmental Policy and Management Research Centre, no.9). Dunedin: Environmental Policy and Management Research Centr, 93p.

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Authored Book - Other

Hilton, M., & Konlechner, T. (2005). A report on the sand dunes of Hakapureirei (Sandhill Point) for the Department of Conservation (Southland) & Te Runaka o Oraka-Aparima. Dunedin, New Zealand: Southern Dune Research Group, University of Otago, 14p.

Hilton, M., Woodley, D., Hart, A., & Arbuckle, C. (2003). The impact of marram grass eradication in the southern dunes of Doughboy Bay, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island: A report to the Department of Conservation (Southland). Dunedin, New Zealand: Department of Geography, University of Otago, 66p.

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Chapter in Book - Research

Hesp, P. A., & Hilton, M. J. (2013). Restoration of foredunes and transgressive dunefields: Case studies from New Zealand. In L. M. Martinez, J. B. Gallego-Fernández & P. A. Hesp (Eds.), Restoration of coastal dunes. (pp. 67-92). Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-33445-0

Harvey, N., & Hilton, M. (2006). Coastal management in the Asia-Pacific region. In N. Harvey (Ed.), Global change and integrated coastal management: The Asia-Pacific region. (pp. 39-66). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/1-4020-3628-0

Hilton, M., Nichol, S., & Goff, J. (2003). Offshore sand systems: Geomorphology annd management. In J. R. Goff, S. L. Nichol & H. L. Rouse (Eds.), The New Zealand coast: Te tai o Aotearoa. (pp. 97-118). Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.

Hilton, M. J. (2000). Regional coastal plans. In A. Memon & H. Perkins (Eds.), Environmental Planning in New Zealand, 2nd Edition. (pp. 223-227). Christchurch: Dunmore Press.

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Chapter in Book - Other

Hilton, M. (2004). APN Global Change Coastal Management Workshop, Kobe, Japan, November, 2004. In N. Harvey, M. Rice & L. Stevenson (Eds.), APN: Global change coastal zone management synthesis report. (pp. 1-37). Japan: APN.

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Journal - Research Article

Hilton, M., Konlechner, T., McLachlan, K., Lim, D., & Lord, J. (2019). Long-lived seed banks of Ammophila arenaria prolong dune restoration programs. Journal of Coastal Conservation. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s11852-018-0675-0

Hilton, M. J., Borrie, D. R., Konlechner, T. M., Wakes, S. J., Lane, T. P., Kench, P. S., … Aslam, M. (2019). A first evaluation of the contribution of aeolian sand transport to lagoon island accretion in the Maldives. Aeolian Research, 39, 47-65. doi: 10.1016/j.aeolia.2019.04.006

Moloney, J. G., Hilton, M. J., Sirguey, P., & Simons-Smith, T. (2018). Coastal dune surveying using a low-cost remotely piloted aerial system (RPAS). Journal of Coastal Research, 34(5), 1244-1255. doi: 10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-17-00076.1

Hilton, M., Walter, R., Greig, K., & Konlechner, T. (2018). Burial, erosion, and transformation of archaeological landscapes: Case studies from southern New Zealand (Aotearoa). Progress in Physical Geography, 42(5), 607-627. doi: 10.1177/0309133318795844

Bauer, B. O., Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D., Hilton, M. J., & Fraser, D. (2018). On the frequency response of a Wenglor particle-counting system for aeolian transport measurements. Aeolian Research, 32, 133-140. doi: 10.1016/j.aeolia.2018.02.008

Hilton, M., Nickling, B., Wakes, S., Sherman, D., Konlechner, T., Jermy, M., & Geoghegan, P. (2017). An efficient, self-orienting, vertical-array, sand trap. Aeolian Research, 25, 11-21. doi: 10.1016/j.aeolia.2017.01.003

Hesp, P. A., Hilton, M., & Konlecher, T. (2017). Flow and sediment transport dynamics in a slot and cauldron blowout and over a foredune, Mason Bay, Stewart Island (Rakiura), NZ. Geomorphology, 295, 598-610. doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2017.08.024

Wakes, S. J., Hilton, M. J., & Konlechner, T. (2016). Topographic steering of oblique incident winds across a foredune-parabolic topography, Mason Bay, Stewart Island, New Zealand. Journal of Coastal Research, 75(Spec. Iss.), 343-347. doi: 10.2112/SI75-069.1

Konlechner, T. M., Orlovich, D. A., & Hilton, M. J. (2016). Restrictions in the sprouting ability of an invasive coastal plant, Ammophila arenaria, from fragmented rhizomes. Plant Ecology, 217(5), 521-532. doi: 10.1007/s11258-016-0597-6

Konlechner, T. M., Hilton, M. J., & Lord, J. M. (2015). Plant community response following the removal of the invasive Lupinus arboreus in a coastal dune system. Restoration Ecology, 23(5), 607-614. doi: 10.1111/rec.12234

Konlechner, T. M., Ryu, W., Hilton, M. J., & Sherman, D. J. (2015). Evolution of foredune texture following dynamic restoration, Doughboy Bay, Stewart Island, New Zealand. Aeolian Research, 19, 203-214. doi: 10.1016/j.aeolia.2015.06.003

Lai, S., Loke, L. H. L., Hilton, M. J., Bouma, T. J., & Todd, P. A. (2015). The effects of urbanisation on coastal habitats and the potential for ecological engineering: A Singapore case study. Ocean & Coastal Management, 103, 78-85. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2014.11.006

Konlechner, T. M., Hilton, M. J., & Orlovich, D. A. (2013). Accommodation space limits plant invasion: Ammophila arenaria survival on New Zealand beaches. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 17(3), 463-472. doi: 10.1007/s11852-013-0244-5

Hart, A. T., Hilton, M. J., Wakes, S. J., & Dickinson, K. J. M. (2012). The impact of Ammophila arenaria foredune development on downwind aerodynamics and parabolic dune development. Journal of Coastal Research, 28(1), 112-122. doi: 10.2112/jcoastres-d-10-00058.1

Petersen, P. S., Hilton, M. J., & Wakes, S. J. (2011). Evidence of aeolian sediment transport across an Ammophila arenaria-dominated foredune, Mason Bay, Stewart Island. New Zealand Geographer, 67(3), 174-189. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7939.2011.01210.x

Wakes, S. J., Maegli, T., Dickinson, K. J., & Hilton, M. J. (2010). Numerical modelling of wind flow over a complex topography. Environmental Modelling & Software, 25(2), 237-247. doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2009.08.003

Spronken-Smith, R., & Hilton, M. (2009). Recapturing quality field experiences and strengthening teaching-research links. New Zealand Geographer, 65(2), 139-146. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7939.2009.01156.x

Kench, P. S., Bryan, K. R., Hart, D. E., Kennedy, D. M., & Hilton, M. J. (2008). A commentary on coastal research in New Zealand universities. New Zealand Geographer, 64(2), 93-104.

Pattanapol, W., Wakes, S. J., Hilton, M. J., & Dickinson, K. J. M. (2008). Modeling of surface roughness for flow over a complex vegetated surface. International Journal of Mathematical, Physical & Engineering Sciences, 2(1), 18-26.

Pattanapol, W., Wakes, S. J., Hilton, M. J., & Dickinson, K. J. M. (2007). Modeling of surface roughness for flow over a complex vegetated surface. Proceedings of World Academy of Science, Engineering & Technology, 32, 273-281.

Hilton, M., Harvey, N., & James, K. (2007). The impact and management of exotic dune grasses near the mouth of the Murray River, South Australia. Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 14(4), 220-230.

Hilton, M. J. (2006). The loss of New Zealand's active dunes and the spread of marram grass (Ammophila arenaria). New Zealand Geographer, 62(2), 105-120. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7939.2006.00054.x

Hilton, M., Harvey, N., Hart, A., James, K., & Arbuckle, C. (2006). The impact of exotic dune grass species on foredune development in Australia and New Zealand: A case study of Ammophila arenaria and Thinopyrum junceiforme. Australian Geographer, 37(3), 313-334. doi: 10.1080/00049180600954765

Hilton, M., Duncan, M., & Jul, A. (2005). Processes of Ammophila arenaria (Marram Grass) Invasion and indigenous species displacement, Stewart Island, New Zealand. Journal of Coastal Research, 21(1), 175-186.

Dixon, P., Hilton, M., & Bannister, P. (2004). Desmoschoenus spiralis displacement by Ammophila arenaria: The role of drought. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 28(2), 207-213.

Clark, E. L., & Hilton, M. J. (2003). Measuring and reporting changing public access to and along the coast. New Zealand Geographer, 59(1), 7-16.

Hilton, M. J., & Chou, L. M. (1999). Sediment facies of a low-energy, meso-tidal, fringing reef, Singapore. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 20(2), 111-130.

Hesp, P., Chang, C. H., Hilton, M. J., Chou, L. M., & Turner, I. M. (1998). A first tentative holocene sea-level curve for Singapore. Journal of Coastal Research, 14(1), 308-314.

Hilton, M. J. (1998). Cities on the shore: the urban littoral frontier. Urban Policy & Research, 16(4), 335-337.

Austin, K., & Hilton, M. J. (1997). Preserving the coastal environment. Planning Quarterly, 126, 21-26.

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Journal - Professional & Other Non-Research Articles

Hilton, M. J. (2000). Marram grass eradication on Stewart Island gets airborne. Coastal News, 14, 6-7.

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Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Full paper

Hilton, M. J., Hatcher, S. V., Wakes, S. J., & Konlechner, T. M. (2016). Flow deflection and deceleration across a simple foredune. Journal of Coastal Research, (Spec. Iss. 75), (pp. 293-297). doi: 10.2112/SI75-059.1

Buckley, E. E. C. B., Hilton, M. J., Konlechner, T. M., & Lord, J. M. (2016). Downwind sedimentation and habitat development following ammophila arenaria removal and Dune Erosion, Mason Bay, New Zealand. Journal of Coastal Research, (Spec. Iss. 75), (pp. 268-272). doi: 10.2112/SI75-54.1

Konlechner, T. M., Buckley, E. E. C. B., Hilton, M. J., & Wakes, S. J. (2016). Downwind dune dynamics following Ammophila arenaria invasion. Journal of Coastal Research, 1(Spec. Iss. 75), (pp. 298-302). doi: 10.2112/SI75-60.1

Konlechner, T. M., Hilton, M. J., & Arens, S. M. (2014). Transgressive dune development following deliberate de-vegetation for dune restoration in The Netherlands and New Zealand. Dynamiques environnementales: Proceedings of the Coastal & Marine Union (EUCC) Symposium & Field Workshop: Integrated Coastal Dune Management in Europe. 33, (pp. 140-152). [Full Paper]

Hilton, M., & Konlechner, T. (2011). Incipient foredunes developed from marine-dispersed rhizome of Ammophilia arenaria. Journal of Coastal Research, 1(Special Issue 64), (pp. 288-292). [Full Paper]

Pattanapol, W., Wakes, S. J., & Hilton, M. (2011). Using computational fluid dynamics to determine suitable foredune morphologies in New Zealand. Journal of Coastal Research. (Special Issue 64), (pp. 298-302). [Full Paper]

Konlechner, T. M., & Hilton, M. J. (2010). Ammophila arenaria (marram grass) persistence through seedling recruitment. In S. M. Zydenbos (Ed.), Proceedings of the 17th Australasian Weeds Conference: New Frontiers in New Zealand: Together we can Beat the Weeds. (pp. 390-393). Christchurch, New Zealand: New Zealand Plant Protection Society. [Full Paper]

Hilton, M. J., & Konlechner, T. M. (2010). A review of the marram grass eradication programme (1999-2009), Stewart Island, New Zealand. In S. M. Zydenbos (Ed.), Proceedings of the 17th Australasian Weeds Conference: New frontiers in New Zealand: Together we can Beat the Weeds. (pp. 386-389). Christchurch, New Zealand: New Zealand Plant Protection Society. [Full Paper]

Hilton, M., Woodley, D., Sweeney, C., & Konlechner, T. (2009). The development of a prograded foredune barrier following Ammophila arenaria eradication, Doughboy Bay, Stewart Island. Journal of Coastal Research [Special Issue]. 56, (pp. 317-321). [Full Paper]

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